Cape Girardeau doctor who battled COVID-19 warns of potential crisis ahead

Doctor Keith Graham hopes everyone takes the virus seriously so you don’t end up in the hospital like he did
Updated: Nov. 24, 2020 at 5:15 PM CST
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - Back at the office. It’s something eight months ago, Doctor Keith Graham wasn’t sure would happen.

“I still have problems everyday,” said Dr. Graham.

It took several months before Dr. Graham felt strong enough to return to work after battling COVID-19.

“Mostly shortness of breath and cough,” said Dr. Graham. “I had a cough for a least four months.”

Back in March, Dr. Graham contracted COVID-19.

His symptoms got worse and worse.

He spent 49 days at Saint Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau, and ended up on a ventilator for several weeks.

“I wouldn’t wish this on anyone,” said Doctor Graham.

At that time, he was one of the few local COVID patients.

“I got a lot of dedicated nurse time, dedicated respiratory therapy time, dedicated doctor time all because there weren’t that many people,” said Dr. Graham.

With cases rapidly on the rise and hospitalization rates soaring, Dr. Graham is quite concerned there won’t be enough staff or resources for patients today.

“There may come a time when we don’t have enough doctors, or nurses or respiratory therapist to take care of patients,” said Dr. Graham. “There may also be a time when we don’t have enough physical resources like ventilators, or IV poles or IV pumps.”

Dr. Graham doesn’t remember much about his hospital stay, but does recall the people who took care of him and held his hand when his wife and family couldn’t.

“There were multiple times that I was taking care of him and I was scared to death that he and I were not going to be talking again,” said Dr. Gretchen Price, hospitalist with Saint Francis Healthcare System.

Dr. Price had always looked up to Dr. Graham and was so relieved, along with the rest of the staff, when he finally got to go home.

“His biggest concern was getting better so he could get back to work and help other people with the problems he was dealing with,” said Steven Hogan, RN at Saint Francis.

Dr. Graham is a pulmonologist.

“You definitely have more empathy for what the patient is feeling,” said Doctor Graham.

He’s glad to be back on the job with a deeper understanding of what he does for a living.

And, an even deeper appreciation for those who saved his life.

“I think I survived because I had excellent care and a lot of prayer,” said Doctor Graham. “The combination of those two things is what led to my recovery. I can’t say enough about the care that I received. They are amazing, they are an amazing group of people.”

Doctor Graham is referring to the healthcare professionals working around the clock at the COVID unit at Saint Francis.

He said we all need to be doing our part to slow the spread of the virus, like wearing a mask, socially distancing, and not gathering in large groups.

He really believes things will get better soon, but said we have to be diligent about protecting ourselves, and our family and friends.

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